Half of a Yellow Sun – When telling the truth becomes an insult

Half of a Yellow Sun was inspired by the Nigeria Civil War  and more personal to the Igbos called Biafra War. It tells the story from the survivors point of view.

As close as Yoruba were to the Igbos, I did not learn a thing at school about the Biafra War, my mother occasionally would mention the war and talked about what she heard went on at the time. She once talked about a young baby being thrown into a boiling palm oil left to sizzle infront of the mother before she herself was shot. She usually talked about Biafra War whenever she felt my town might end up like the Biafra – well not quite given we are only a tiny fraction of a tribe.

I was not excited to read HOAYS given I have heard a lot about it, but because everyone seems to get slightly different messages, so I decided to give it a go so as to draw my conclusion. I was not disappointed, well about the naked truth of Biafra War – had a few days nightmare though because Adichie did not leave lots for imagination, she did a wonderful job just as Nigerians whether we like it or not needed.

My nightmares were not out of pity for the Igbos for the nearly three million people who were killed in the most horrendous ways possible, I could not pretend that I knew how Ndigbos felt especially when you see your friend being blown up right in front of your eyes or when you see a driver being cajoled to give details of his background to determine which part of the country they are from, only to be shot a minute after because his tribe is the enemy.

What gave me nightmares was the fact that today the issues that caused Biafra War are still unresolved. We play down many of important issues as if they don’t matter hence we have endless bloodshed all over the country. Boko Haram a few hour ago.

We are one country not by our making in any sense, however we can run with what we have and make the best of it by celebrating our uniqueness.

Just finished watching the movie which is very well made, still packed with emotional scenes. Now I can see why HOAYS was a good enough historical movie to be screened in Toronto and London with no problem whatsoever but took three months and endless back and forth on some editorials before it was allowed in Nigeria movie theatres – because in Nigeria telling the truth is insults.

In one of the scenes where Odenigbo and Ms Adebayo were both having serious conversations about the war, Ms Adebayo being a Yoruba took an offence when Odenigbo resented Yoruba Monarchs for sending gratitude notes to the northern Emirs for excluding the Yorubas from the killing spree. Odenigbo’s response to Adebayo was that she was only offended because he was telling the truth. Why is the truth so hard to swallow forty-seven years ago and still today especially when you point to the wrong doings of the royal families?

This is where Nigeria is today – unless we face the bitter truth of our past, we stand no chance of moving forward. Not even if Nigeria becomes a new Mecca/Jerusalem, oh and we adopt Cuba because those guys still worship Obatala/Orisa.

I can only say thank you to Ms Adichie and to the director and the crew of HOAYS the movie. Both provided me with lots of information about my country – the ones that most from outside of the Igbo are not aware of.

The mask we wear when the world sees us

The more I think about the issues of Modakeke and Ile Ife the more I realised how easy it is for people to live in their own little world and in their minds think no one else sees the truth of their dealings when in fact it is no secret to anyone. And of course one of the reasons it is possible for one person or a group of people to oppress another is first of all the believe that the mission is possible and secondly the thoughts that the universe will remain the same that no one will get any wiser.

Aron was a 24 year old American Medical student from Yale. He came to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in 1998 as part of a year-long research about West Africa traditional medicines he was doing. He made Ile-Ife as his base and from there travelled to different parts of Yorubaland researching our medicinal recipes for different ailments. He was happy that all of the traditionalists he met were exceptionally helpful providing him with loads of information.

What Aron will likely never forget was what happened during his 5 months stay in Ile-Ife. As an Oyinbo he floated between the two communities freely anytime of the day as he pleases even when he had to walk from the campus gate all the way to Lagere and through Mayfair – the area that usually would be bursting with different happy noises from people advertising their goods only that this time there were barely anyone on the road as the two towns were at it once again – killing spree fuelled by fight over land ownership.

Aron told me about his visit to Ooni of Ife palace and how well he was received, I was happy for him. I really did not have to tell him a word, he has seen it all. Before he left to Ghana to continue his research, he gave me a poem that he wrote about the relationship between Modakeke and Ife. Whao, is all that I could say because I don’t think Oba Okunade Sijuade realised that a 24-year-old stranger sees much more that we wanted him to see.

Agba kii wa l’oja k’ori omo tuntun ko wo – In reality this proverb is only words not at all true for Yoruba elders,  they watch on as the future of tomorrow are being wasted.

Who are we kidding? Even with many layers of mask people can see though the inhumane attitude that we display towards our fellow beings and don’t you be deceived, when we refused to talk/write about the truth of our stories due to fear of being leached, the outsiders are writing and documenting our stories for us.

Effects of war on Nigeria yesterday children

When time is not enough to heal wounds – War Wounds.

If time can indeed heal all wounds, I would not remember the case of Amina each time I think of Boko Haram especially the effects of mindless killings on children and the youths when tomorrow gets here. Today is my tomorrow and the wounds are still raw because no justice has been served and perpetual killing/injustice is still going on. Their tomorrow will come fast and perhaps may react differently. Those who have been killed, were gone. Those who faced daily torture especially the abducted girls of Chibok whether sold out as child-bride or (finger-crossed) released to their family members, will have the rest of their lives to tell the tales.

In a country like mine, human lives were the cheapest, sad but that is the truth. With the resent twist about the news of powerful Nigerians being the main sponsors of BH – No surprises.

Most of the people involved in BH were youths, they are young and for the reasons best known to them, they allowed “big” people to manipulate them into killing their own kins, friends, neighbours and school mates.

I know that GEJ, my president is somewhere still handling Boko Haram case with kid’s glove – he said this himself a few months back.

Amina and I attended the same secondary school, she was very outgoing with lots of friends. Both of her parents were from *Ile Ife but they decided to build their mansion in Modakeke. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong in people having a home where they liked especially when they have paid all their dues. One problem here was that Modakeke and Ile-Ife were like Omo iya *awusa. (loosely means siblings that passionately hated each other). Amina’s parents made this decision in the late 1970s when everyone in the area thought life will forever be peaceful. Their house was one of the few beautiful ones in town at the time, even today several decades later, Amina’s house still stands out.

By December 1,  1980, everything changed. A new king installed in Ile Ife.

This is where Amina’s story came in. For me I already knew I was in hot soup since I was about seven years old. I knew how terrible it was to have both parents being native of the same town – no where to run, we were doomed and just lived by the mercy of the new Ife king – whose only mission in life was to see the end of every living soul that belonged to Modakeke or if that failed, to take away all their farmlands so as to keep them as servants forever – this is real. As it turned out it was not that easy to wipe out everyone in a group but easier to take over their livelihoods forcefully. This is where the torments begins.

As terrible as this sounds, I was a bit happy and felt safe as I was among a group of people whose lives were filled with daily paralysing despair – we had similar fate.

Amina’s story was different. Her family lived in the middle of Modakeke. She and her siblings knew no other place since they were born. They of course could have run as it will only take just about 20minutes power-walk to be in safe haven of Ile Ife – but they did not.

Since December 1980, there has always been one thing or the other that leads to displacement of people usually chasing them out of their farmlands in broad day lights and when resistance of any kind is perceived, the attackers will come around first thing in the morning usually around 5am and just hack/gun them all – the aim was to take away their farmlands anyways, either dead or alive means nothing to the perpetrators.

Amina’s story was in early 1990’s. Here is the dilemma for Amina who was only sixteen years old at the time and her brother 14 years old:

– They needed to protect their house, if they run away their mansion is likely to be razed to the ground as they may be seen as enemy within.

Alternatively,

– They could run to Ile Ife where their extended families were, but really have no place to live there, they will be leaving their home and livelihood behind.

Amina’s father was away on business. Amina and Tajudeen though children were forced to make decision – they chose to stay and defend their home and support the people whom they have known all their lives.

Why am I relating Boko Haram with Modakeke and Ife crisis?

-Both heavily involved youths as casualties and as fighters

– In both cases youths are brainwashed to kill their own kind

– In both cases Elders/royals that were meant to protect/educate/enlighten were the monsters, keeping their own children away and wasting other people lives

– Both started as nursed hatred/revenge then get political therefore government fold their hands and pretended all is well.

 

 

*Awusa = Walnut. Nigeria walnut is different from western walnut. When broken, there is a thin layer of cover between two halves that prevent one from touching the other.

*Ife and Modakeke belonged to the same ethnic group, spoke the same language albeit slightly different accents.

Proximity of Modakeke and Ile Ife – Imagine London and Kent or Seattle and Belleveu in WA – so no defines boundaries.